- Museum number
- Object: An eruption of mount Vesuvius; and the anticipated effects of the storm.
Thunderbolts strike Napoleon and his army from the left, while from the right an eruption from Vesuvius is about to overwhelm them. The thunderbolts slant down from black clouds surrounding an irradiated space and the heads of Liverpool, the Emperor of Austria, the Tsar, Wellington, and Blücher. They issue from cannon, half-concealed in the clouds, and from the mouth of Liverpool, the foremost of the five. The centre of the rays which light up these heads and strike the heavy clouds is a dove with an olive-branch. Napoleon tumbles backwards from his horse, a grotesque little figure with his legs uppermost, his huge bicorne falls off. Round him are dead or dying soldiers, much burlesqued, many wearing bonnets rouges. Cannon and eagles lie on the ground.
The cone of Vesuvius, surrounded by smoke, sends up a cascade of missiles; among these are King Joachim of Naples (Murat) and his wife Caroline Bonaparte, who fall head first towards Napoleon, followed by rats. In another cascade of stones is a crown labelled 'To the right owner', and a sceptre; these are about to fall into the arms of Ferdinand IV of Sicily, who stands below, reaching up for them. On the slope of Vesuvius are spires and buildings, inscribed 'Naples', while lower down is the bay, crowded with men-of-war, a Union flag flying above the French tricolour. As a pendant to Vesuvius and on the extreme left is 'The Good City of Paris', bordered by tiny windmills (representing Montmartre, see No. 12237, and French fickleness, see No. 12519). It is on fire, owing to thunderbolts falling perpendicularly from the clouds surrounding the allies. Below the title:
'Dark low'rs the Sky; the clouded air
Portends the dire, approaching shock;
Rapine exults, & grim Despair
Laughs wildly from his barren rock:
But soon shall Peace, from darkness breaking
Smile brightly o'er our glorious Isle;
And soon indignant Thunder waking
From France shall tear a yoke so vile!'
17 June 1815.
- Production date
Height: 260 millimetres
Width: 365 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
Published the day before Waterloo. Murat, see No. 12522, defeated by the Austrians at Tolentino on 2 May, had fled to France, arriving at Cannes on 25 May, to offer his services to Napoleon. On news of Napoleon's escape Admiral Lord Exmouth had been ordered with his squadron to the Mediterranean. The print is partly based on two designs by Gillray, Vesuvius in eruption from No. 8479; and the thunderbolts issuing from the heads of the Allies from No. 9167, where blasts against 'the Raft' issue from the mouth of Pitt. The prominence of Liverpool is unusual, and may derive from an analogy with the position of Pitt in the latter print. His 'march to Paris' is ridiculed in No. 12552.
There are two other states (not in B.M.): an earlier one, with the word 'Approaching', here erased, before 'Storm', and a later one with the blank space filled by 'Waterloo' (see No. 12557).
Reid, No. 488. Cohn, No. 1093. Broadley, i. 384 (reproduction), 385. De Vinck, No. 8199. Reproduced, Grand-Carteret, 'Napoléon', No. 348.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number